Ernesto Valverde has maintained a spotless record since he took over at Barcelona. Yes, he has had his fair share of criticism, but the Basque tactician continues to remain invincible (bar the pre-season losses).
His playing style and formation are outdated according to some, but it’s hard to argue against his undefeated streak. With the unexpected loss of Neymar and new-arrival Ousmane Dembele getting side-lined, Valverde’s man-management was hailed. And to be honest, it is remarkable to see Barcelona survive and occasionally thrive despite such drastic tactical and personnel changes.
Pragmatism has become the latest buzz-word in the Camp Nou. Being a purist is almost criminal in the current environment.
When Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City took on Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United at Old Trafford, it could have easily been dubbed as “El Clasico: The Sequel” for, the plot remained unchanged. It was pragmatism against a purist—the will to win against the pursuit of excellence. The immovable object against the unstoppable force. The purists triumphed.
The story of Barcelona is similar. Only, our conflicts are internal. Barcelona’s fan base has been divided in their wishes for how the team should perform. While some prefer the hard-nosed “backs-against-the-wall” approach deployed by Mourinho, there are those who prefer the elegant and excellence-oriented approach of Guardiola.
We are at odds against ourselves and the only way forward is to strive for excellence. To opt for excellence is to welcome success—to court it into an eternal embrace.
Being pragmatic is easy. It’s like that smooth one-liner which will help you strike up a conversation at a bar with success. However, to sustain it, there needs to be substance. Unfortunately, pragmatism will only take you so far. The pursuit of excellence, on the other hand, will build a foundation for success, that will define generations and leave a legacy—Barcelona is living proof.
In a purist’s eyes, being pragmatic is to pursue excellence.
Barcelona may be flirting with success at the moment but without excellence, it will not last for long.